We had a difference of opinion while putting away the summer crap this weekend. Geoff wanted to be able to get into our shed, which is never going to happen given that it is our only storage space for outdoor equipment. The bikes and his hand cycle live outside the shed under tarps, and I just pray the neighbors won’t complain. But the tiny shed attached to our condo contains all sorts of equipment like fishing gear, of which there is a lot, coolers, gardening tools, buckets of varying sizes, my road bike which Geoff insisted we buy shortly after our son was born, my around town bike for pedaling with the kids and, if it’s a good day, an unlimited supply of antique wooden skis (also Geoff’s) stacked above the door won’t crash down on my head– again, when it’s a good day.
Fall in New England is like a tiny bit of magic. We’ve already had some cold snaps, maybe even a frosty morning or two. But then there is a day that feels as bright and warm and free as a kid in August. Fall is a season of transition for us between family activities we love like fishing and cycling while waiting for skiing, skiing, and more skiing. However, the actual transition is hard. The goal of the afternoon was to borrow my dad’s pick-up truck and move some of the “summer sport collection” including adaptive equipment that doesn’t fit in our Eastern Adaptive Sports trailer. That was the goal. But then he saw the shed, and his goal shifted. Mine did not. Enter stage left: annoyed wife. I know that I can’t make our shed any more accessible than it is and by accessible, I mean, he tells me what he is looking for, and I find it. Soon, the shed will be filled with our deck table and chairs and whatever extra skis he needs for traveling along with his ski bag. He won’t be able to reach the shed anyway in the winter because I don’t shovel an endless path around the house for him. Even my dad lectures me on our lack of secondary egress that is wheelchair accessible. Worst case scenario, I tell my dad, is that Geoff can throw himself out the door and crawl through the snow. I know. I know. Not ideal.
Yesterday, while loading and unloading adaptive equipment, our kids wanted to play “paralysis” together. When this first started, I hesitated because pretending to be paralyzed just seemed like a strange game. Yet, Geoff embraced and encouraged his independent use of the wheelchair, the dragging of his body up our stairs for bedtime, the authentic transfer from couch to wheelchair, etc. I drew the line at bringing the wheelchair upstairs since I already have enough pieces of equipment to move around as my loving husband’s equipment manager.
But we max out from time to time, and transition seasons are those times for me. Watching my son and husband fish together or my daughter and him work on bikes or wheelchairs together because she is actually interested in how they work is the best deep breath I take. But our son doesn’t wear underwear because Daddy doesn’t wear any. He also pees the bed from time to time still and doesn’t think too much of it because, hey, Daddy also has accidents when his pee bag comes detached from time to time. To want to push around in a wheelchair like Daddy is simply a natural progression of his development. It’s all pretty funny, actually, when you stop to look at it from the outside.
So, watching our son drag his body up the steps yesterday isn’t so weird after all. Watching him try to put his pants on for school this morning without bending his legs is also not really so weird. Watching him pee sitting down and then getting upset because he accidentally peed through the toilet seat. Now, if he had asked for a catheter, I would have drawn the line again. Empathy comes in many ways, and this just might be the way he is figuring out what Dad’s spinal cord injury is all about. Our daughter seems to have always known. And I just try to move our life out of the way from the wheelchairs, which is harder now that we have two roaming around the place.
Heather Krill is a writer- wife- teacher-mom who lives in the White Mountains of NH with her husband, Geoff, a paraplegic and professional skier, and their two children, Carver and Greta who are 8 and 7.Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.